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high desert. small house.

Days 216-222: More Boxes & Wiring

Monday, 2/15
We ran into a small issue with the boxes for our main light fixtures.  Our plan is to have two sconces on each endcap and one above the piano (the bathroom wall).  When we opened up a sconce to check it with the light box, we discovered that the fixture is surprisingly heavy and the round electrical  box is surprisingly flexible.  We didn’t like the idea of putting our heavy double light fixtures on something that might not support them well, so we’re taking back those boxes.

With the little daylight that was left, Brian installed the outdoor light.  Once it is weatherized, that will be all set.

Outdoor light - oil rubbed bronze to match our other fixtures.

Outdoor light – oil rubbed bronze to match our other fixtures.

Tuesday, 2/16
After a little hardware store tour, Brian discovered a good box at Do It Best Hardware.  It’s about twice the cost of the blue ones but feels super solid and uses screws and metal brackets to attach..  He installed all the light boxes, except for the bathroom.

The cream box is much sturdier than the flimsy blue boxes.

Both are UL listed to support fixtures up to 50 lbs, but the beige box with the bracket is easier to install and feels much sturdier than the blue boxes. (Update: The blue box actually becomes pretty sturdy once installed, the screw-in bracket of the beige ones is fantastic to work with)

We ran into an issue with the lights on the south wall.  The decision to have our windows sized the way they are and the decision to have cross-beams did not exactly happen at the same time.  The windows were installed at exactly the height we wanted (a certain distance above the ground for dog feet prevention), but we didn’t realize that their height put them just shy of the cross beams.  Our original plan had been to evenly space our two sconces on that wall – one would end up kind of above the door/left window and the other would be above the right window/empty space.

We discovered an issue with that plan – Because of the placement of the cross beams (8 feet above the ground), our lights end up aligned with them or above them.  While this might not be a problem right now, aside from possible shadow-casting, it would be an issue should we ever decide to change the top space into a loft.

We’d rather have the future flexibility than keep our original light placement, so we decided to put one light above the fridge (which is pretty tight to the east wall, just to the left of the door) and the other light between the door and the left window.  This will focus the light on the kitchen and the piano area, at the expense of our west wall and Fred’s space.

We will also have a sconce on the bathroom wall, so that will cast some illumination at the west wall and toward Fred.  If needed, we could add a lamp near Fred; but really, it’ll probably be fine.

Cross beams relative to window height. You can see how lights placed ABOVE the windows would end up in loft territory.

Cross beams relative to window height. You can see how lights placed ABOVE the windows would end up in loft territory.

South wall light placement - you can see a light box to the left of the door and then to the left of the window.

South wall light placement – you can see a light box to the left of the door and then to the left of the window.  They are the same size.

Wednesday, 2/17
We checked in with our local electrical inspector about smoke detector placement in a house that consisted of one room.  He said to mount it anywhere within 1 foot of the top of the ceiling. The north endcap, near the top, fits the bill and is very convenient vs the middle of the house.  We also asked if we could skip the NEC 2014 mandated phone line install since we’d have a cable modem but he wants us to just put a bit of some kind of ‘raceway’ in the wall near the breaker panel with a piece of unterminated, jackless, CAT 5 network cable loosely hanging out of it. Fair enough – now to find the smallest possible thing considered ‘raceway’.

Our local electrical inspector instructed us to place the smoke detector up high. We were glad we called him because our original plan had been to locate it centrally in the house (on the bathroom wall). This location is high up on an endcap.

Our local electrical inspector instructed us to place the smoke detector up high. We were glad we called him because our original plan had been to locate it centrally in the house (on the bathroom wall). This location is high up on an endcap.

In discussing our options for smoke alarms we compared photoelectric versus ionizing.  Ionizing uses a little radioactive material to ionize air for its detector whereas a photoelectric type does not.  Also the photoelectric sensor is less prone to false positives from cooking.  None of the local stores had hardwired photoelectric models so we had to order from the internet.

In order to run electrical cables along the 1.5″ furring strips in the arch walls, some special  techniques will be used.  There is a required protective space buffer of 1.25″ from the edge of the framing material to the edge of an electrical cable.  Any place with less than 1.25″ needs to be protected with 1/16th” in thick steel plates or conduit.  In order to keep the wires back in the safe zone, we will be using these Arlington multi-wire staples, colloquially known as ‘Christmas Trees’.

Christmas tree wire organizers - after we trim the width a little, these will be attached on our arched wall furring strips to hold the electrical wires.

Christmas tree wire organizers – after we trim the width a little, these will be attached on our arched wall furring strips to hold the electrical wires.

Thursday, 2/18
We called around to get estimates on blown-in insulation for the endcaps.  We heard $819 (including travel 3 hours each way) from a company out of El Paso and $950 for a local guy. These estimates are for the endcaps only but now we are also contemplating using blown-in cellulose for the floor.

After numerous calls to the local inspector and some trips to the stores, Brian got started running the wiring.  Also, after confirming that there were no local photoelectric smoke alarms, we ordered one from Amazon.  Thanks to free 2-day shipping, we’ll have it in time for the inspection (Update: it looks like we don’t actually need it for the rough in inspection; just its electrical box with wires sticking out of it).

The new drill is good for boring holes for wiring. Go drill go!

The new drill is good for boring holes. Go drill go!

Breakers in the electric box

Another Thursday accomplishment – Breakers in the electric box, arranged based on physical circuit layout in the house (left side/right side) and placed with a preliminary load balancing arrangement,

Christmas trees along the wall.

Christmas trees along the wall with 12 gauge wire.

Friday, 2/19
We have a Tucson business trip coming up this Sunday, which is good timing for electrical stuff.  We need 6-2 wire for the water heater and none of our local stores carry it.  We also need to return one of the bathroom vanity lights we purchased (we initially thought we’d want two) and replace one of the sconces that had a cracked shade.

Brian finished the largest circuit and installed the AFCI and GFCI breakers with tidily trimmed pigtails.  We also practiced our waltz and started the salsa.

Brain stopped at the shack midday for some coffee and a snack. As a joke, he pretended to dip his pepperoni stick into the coffee..and it backfired. Hahahaha!

Brian stopped at the shack midday for some coffee and a snack. As a joke, he pretended to dip his pepperoni stick into the coffee..and it backfired by falling in. Hahahaha!  He said it tasted pretty good.

Saturday, 2/20
More of the same – wiring work.  Brian discovered that the staples he had been using to secure the wire were very much inferior to the “Christmas trees”.  We had used them in a few places before discovering the trees.  Not going to do that again…

This is a really cool couple we met at work on Saturday. They're riding from Portland, OR to the tip of South America. They spent the last two years selling their stuff and home and then hit the road. Not only do our interests overlap in terms of adventures living and minimalist lifestyle, but Diana used to roast her own coffee. You can follow them on their blog - www.orwhatthejourney.wordpress.com.

This is a really cool couple we met at work on Saturday. They’re riding from Portland, OR to the tip of South America. They spent the last two years selling their stuff and home and then hit the road. Not only do our interests overlap in terms of adventurous living and minimalist lifestyle, but Diana used to roast her own coffee. You can follow them on their blog – www.orwhatthejourney.wordpress.com.

Sunday, 2/21
We had a productive trip to Tucson – picked up our housing supplies, took care of our business errands, ate some mediocre sushi and returned happily to the place with a fraction of the traffic.

Weird object near mile marker 378 on I-10.

Weird object near mile marker 378 on I-10.  It appears to be surrounded by cameras?

Davis–Monthan Air Force Base off Kolb St in Tucson. There is an overwhelming number of planes stashed there.

Davis–Monthan Air Force Base off Kolb St in Tucson. There is an overwhelming number of planes stashed there.

Spade bits we picked up at Lowes. The bits we have been using seem to be less sturdy and they're longggg. These higher quality, shorter bits will make it much easier to get the drill into tight spaces and efficiently drill holes.

Spade bits we picked up at Lowes. The 6″ bits we have been using are too long to fit between most of the stud bays, which means boring at an angle then trying to straighten out. These shorter bits will make it much easier to get the drill into tight spaces and efficiently drill holes.

2 Comments

  1. Looking good kids, the weird object is a VOR station for aircraft

  2. FYI: The tool to use is the right angle drill. Expensive for one use, but that is what the pro’s use.
    Love to check in on the progress.
    Inch by inch, life is a cinch!
    Keep up the good work.

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